Seat-sharing talks between the BJP and AIADMK have ground to a halt after home minister Amit Shah had insisted that the AMMK headed by Sasikala’s nephew TTV Dhinakaran should also be roped into the alliance for the April 6 Assembly elections.
During his more than two hours of discussions with Chief Minister K .Palaniswamy and his deputy O. Panneerselvam on Sunday night at Chennai, Amit Shah had disclosed that the BJP’s assessment had shown that only the presence of the AMMK would improve the winning chances of the AIADMK Front, especially in the southern districts. To support his theory he had even presented the votes polled by the AMMK during the 2019 Lok Sabha and 22 Assembly byelections and also the local body elections.
Taken by surprise EPS and OPS had argued that the ground reality had changed in the last two years especially after the waiver of the co-operative farm loans and other sops announced by the AIADMK government. They expressed their combined confidence of doing well even if the AMMK was kept out. But Amit Shah cautioned that leaving out Sasikala and the AMMK would only help the DMK to regain power in the state. He asked them not to stand on ego but to take a pragmatic view of augmenting their vote share by including the AMMK.
EPS had said it would be difficult for the AIADMK to strike a deal with the AMMK after having outright rejected Sasikala’s overtures. “It will show us in poor light if we accepted her now,” he had reportedly told the home minister. Shah had then proposed that the AIADMK allot 50 seats to the BJP out of which it would allot AMMK about 20 seats. The AIADMK leaders told Shah that they would get back after discussing with their senior leaders.
The AIADMK apprehends that since the AMMK would be contesting on its own symbol of “Pressure Cooker,” it would be independent of the AIADMK after the elections and can hold it to ransom if there is a hung Assembly. At its meeting today AIADMK leaders had suggested that AMMK candidates should contest either on the AIADMK’s “Two Leaves” symbol or the BJP’s “Lotus” symbol so they would be bound by the diktat of the larger parties.
“If the AMMK MLAs form a distinct bloc they could even strike a deal with the DMK tomorrow. So we need to keep them under our control since we are the lead party of the alliance. It would also be difficult to part with 50 seats as demanded by the BJP. At the most 35 would be the highest limit out of which they can give 15 seats to AMMK candidates,” pointed out a senior AIADMK functionary. He also admitted that the party’s ministers and MLAs from the South are keener than EPS and OPS to have some kind of understanding with AMMK to prevent erosion of anti-DMK votes.
Apparently, the BJP central leadership has been in talks directly with AMMK general secretary TTV Dhinakaran, keeping even its state leadership in the dark. A state BJP leader also admitted that the Central leadership was taking a larger view to rope in the AMMK, while the state unit has left the decision making to the AIADMK. “It may take another two days before a final picture emerges,” said the BJP functionary.